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The ‘British Disease’ is about to get worse

Last weekend I watched some good tennis from some young British players. True they were hammered by the best male tennis player in the world, one of the fastest servers in the world, and one of the all-time great doubles players. But the Australian tennis team would have fancied their chances against any comers on a surface of their own choosing, in front of a partisan crowd.

An Australian paraded a banner which listed a series of sporting indignities heaped upon the British in the previous year: massacres in the cricket, rugby league etc. But neither football (soccer), nor rugby union were mentioned. Patrick Crozier, writes about the novel indignity of being beaten by the Australian soccer team: nicknamed the “Socceroos”, so what they call the England team I shudder to even think.

However, Patrick, like many British people goes from one extreme to the other. Just because the English invented soccer over one hundred and forty years ago, there is supposed to be something shameful about defeat to a newcomer. The same attitude exists in all areas of British endeavour since the mid-19th century. First it was an inferiority complex with Germany and the USA, later with Japan, then Germany and “Europe”. In most cases whether it is the navy, the health system, schools, food, beer, state television, industry, Britain is always assumed either to be “the finest in the world” or it ought to be.

If there were anything remotely approximating the amount of effort put into achieving these ideals as there is spent on moaning about failure, perhaps these delusions would at least be productive. Instead we get whingeing succeded by overbearing gloating, then back again. Little wonder that for any foreigner that regularly competes against the English, there is great pleasure in victory.

But this time things have got truly out of hand. The England rugby union team has been beating the supposedly superior New Zealand, South Africa and Australia teams for several years. The latest round of matches was a professional execution of southern hemisphere pride. So instead of bleating about a soccer match, English sports fans would do better to find out what the rugby team is doing right. England deserve to be favourites to win the rugby world cup this year.

Sadly [not!], the English rugby team faces a truly superior force tomorrow at Twickenham: the French national side, who I have no doubt, will rub snotty English noses into the cold Middlesex mud. I shall of course observe this with my usual detachment… and resist wrentching my phone and pestering every English rugby fan I know for at least two minutes.

Then you’ll have something to moan about!

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3 comments to The ‘British Disease’ is about to get worse

  • Brian Micklethwait


    This is too late for anyone else to read, this posting of yours having been put out of its misery by prognostications of various other kinds. But this comment will probably reach you.

    I didn’t think either side was a “truly superior force” today, although England did come quite close to a good win. They just couldn’t finish it. And the referee took his time finishing it as well, didn’t he?

    But let the Samizdata record show that the result was: England 25 France 17.

    The bad news for England being that this was largely because of Wilkinson being a good goal kicker and Merceron, today, not.

    Bad luck for France that the try count didn’t decide it, because France won that contest 3-1, and had France managed a fourth (which they nearly did) they would still have lost. But rules is rules.

    Quite like old times. I bet Rob Andrew is having a chuckle.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Zut alors! England 25 France 17.
    The French need a kicker of the calibre of Johnny Wilkinson: probably the finest in the world at the moment.
    If England can play around the world the way they can play at Twickenham, they will win the World Cup later this year in Australia. The problem is that England’s rugby teams have a habit of blowing it on the big occasion. It would not surprise me if England were to lose a game in the Six Nations tournament, or to lose with a poor display against a Southern Hemisphere team in the World Cup.
    Despite the result, I enjoyed most of this game. Unlike France’s last defeat at Twickenham, I didn’t feel (and the French players didn’t either) that the referee was biased or hopeless.
    England won because they have a much better kicker than France. We can complain, but ultimately a better performer than Gérard Merceron needs to be found, or he needs to shape up.
    For American readers, imagine a gridiron match where the winning team scores one touchdown and six field goals, and the losers get 3 TDs and no field goals, missing about five kicks.
    Nice to see Thomas Castagnède back from serious injuries, he’s going to be useful for French hopes at the World Cup.

  • Brian Micklethwait

    Our comments seem to have crossed, but we pretty much agree.

    Just to add: yesterday England A beat France A by 30-13 and the England Under 21s beat France 26-25, and (just before the full international at Twickenham) the England Women beat the French Women (maybe that’s not such as surprise) by, I think I heard them say, 53-0. It was fifty something, and it was definitely nil.

    Le clean sweep.